Monday, December 31, 2012

Year in Review and Sneak Peek of 2013!

What a year! As 2012 comes to a close, we have much to reflect on! It has been a busy year – both in terms of managing the farm and promoting the education of sustainable land management.
  • Arik spent countless hours pruning, thinning, planting and combating invasives, not to mention manning the lawn mowers and lately, snow plows!
  • We tried some new things on the farm this year – including a food plot, trail cams (photos coming soon!) and a hunting system to help all of us stay informed of who is hunting when and where.
  • We opened our doors wide in efforts to educate others about the farm. We had over 100 students visit the farm, hosted the AFF Board, threw a party for the farm’s oldest resident, and started this little project!
  • We took some time to educate ourselves, too. We hosted a chainsaw safety course in the fall, which Joe and Arik participated in. Arik and I became Land Ethic Leaders, and I also learned more about the Leopold Education Project. Arik participated in the Sinsinawa Tri-State Woodland Conference, while Joe and I both attended the Madison Woodland Conference.

It has been a busy, fun year – but there is not much time to reflect, as 2013 is just around the corner! And we have a lot planned…

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Photo Gallery: Blizzard of December '12

Last week's blizzard dumped 18" of snow on us, leaving no question as to whether this year would be a white Christmas! It was a heavy, wet snow that stuck to whatever surface it landed upon. This type of snow makes for very beautiful scenery, but as you'll see below -- isn't the best for the trees! 

The opportunistic beaver

If you had followed my blog entries this last summer you are aware of the ongoing battles with the resident beaver. I write beaver in the singular form, because my hopes are that only ONE beaver calls the farm home. Anyway, this particular beaver found a way to clog the discharge pipe on one of our ponds. The picture below shows the pipe with the access plate on top of it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Mystery Boxes - Make a Guess!

These two boxes were delivered to the Farm yesterday. Arik was very excited to see them - their contents will keep him busy, and will also be an exciting new endeavor for the Farm to pursue.

Can you guess what's inside? Leave a comment with your guess! We'll be back in a couple days to tell you all about it...

Friday, December 7, 2012

Chipping Buckthorn

The safest way to load Buckthorn into the chipper!

If you have ever handled Buckthorn you can understand why I load it into the chipper with our mini-excavator. If you have never handled Buckthorn, take note of the second syllable in the invasive's name. The thorns are not to be dismissed. 

In this picture I am chipping some pretty large Buckthorn (~15 feet tall). They were growing on the edge of a woodlot so they grew out as much as up, plus they had multiple stems. After cutting the Buckthorn, I had a few options: let it lay where it fell, make some brush piles or use our chipper to grind up the brush. 

My experience with this shrub-type of Buckthorn is it has to be chipped. Trying to make brush piles out of it once it is this size and shape can be frustrating. After stacking a few shrubs up, the pile tends to fall over, or the shrubs roll off.

I've also learned that Buckthorn can be slow to decay. If I am removing invasives, I like to be able to walk through the area that my work was done in. These large shrubs left to rot, where they stood, would impede foot traffic for sometime. 

A Bucktorn brush pile reduced to chips will be significantly smaller than a brush pile, and the chips can be used on trails. If I don't get around to using the chips, they decompose much faster than if left whole. 

I recognize not everyone has this type of equipment available for their projects. I am interested to hear what you do with Buckthorn once cutting it, so leave a comment. Stay tuned I will also write about how I treat the cut stumps. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Big Oak Wake

Saturday we laid our Big Oak to rest with quite the party! Friends and family gathered to watch Beaver Tree Service take down the tree in a process that moved astonishingly fast. It took nearly 200 years to grow to that size, yet only a matter of hours to come down. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Tribute to the Oak Tree

Lately it seems like walnut trees have been getting all the attention. And it's well deserved - their high timber value and beautiful wood make them a prized species for growers and consumers. We have a good amount of walnut that grows on the farm and one day, we'll do a post about them.

But today I want to give some praise to a different species. Oak.

Not "The Big Oak" (see below!) but a big white oak on Arington Tree Farm.

Oak is a valuable species in many ways. They're native to Wisconsin, meaning they began growing here naturally, without any human intervention. They are a durable, strong species and have withstood the test of time - surviving the prairie fires started by Native Americans and intense grazing by dairy herds.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Pond projects

Last week our friend Richard Wedepohl visited the farm.

Richard, Joe and Arik checking out one of the farm's ponds.

We had some catching up to do on Wisconsin government affairs, but also wanted him to check out a few of our many ponds. Richard spent his career as a waterways engineer with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and really knows his stuff!

Richard gave us some good ideas - methods to clear up algae, how to keep drainage tracts open, and ways we could even establish a "private pond" on the farm. We'll definitely be putting his recommendations to use in the near future. Thanks Richard!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Planting Prep

Today I worked on some fall planting prep.

What type of trees you may ask? Not trees but wild flowers. Are they still wild if you plant them? 

Conundrums aside, with the relatively wet October this is a great time to disc. The goal is to add a bit of color to this otherwise monochromatic field of grasses.

Secretly, this is my chance to hangout in a nice clean and heated tractor cab. Now I just have to figure out how to prune trees from in here.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Walking in the Forest with Walbridge School

Last week we hosted our friends from Walbridge School for National Walk in the Forest Day. The day, promoted by American Forest Foundation and Society of American Foresters, is an opportunity to engage the community in nature and explore all the benefits of forests. Teaching others about sustainable forestry is one of the goals of Arington Tree Farm, so we welcomed this opportunity to share our woods!

Partly sunny skies and 70 degree temperatures greeted the students as they arrived that morning. (We had originally planned the day for Friday, Oct. 19 -- which was 45 and rainy! Good call in rescheduling!) Borrowing a page from Aldo Leopold's lesson plans, we structured the day around the principles of "observe, participate and reflect."

We started the day off with a walk in the woods - a great way to observe. Arik engaged the students in a tree identification activity, using leaves to identify trees. It was a fun activity and many wildlife sightings (cranes, geese, a stray cat!) made the walk even more exciting.

A majestic Bur Oak, approximately 150-200 years old.

Monday, October 22, 2012

More rain!

At Arington Tree Farm we save many of our indoor projects for the winter months or for rainy days. Needless to say with the drought of 2012, rain days have been scarce. However, the last few weeks have given me plenty of chances to work in the shop. The photo above was taken looking out of the shop door. 

Friday, October 12, 2012

Why Prune?

This is a post about pruning. Get it... prunes?!?!

Friday humor aside, pruning is important to help trees develop straight trunks (increases their timber value) and encourages healthy growth. Pruning also helps raise the canopy to make mowing easier and keeps the trees looking nicer.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Safety First!

Last Saturday, Arington Tree Farm hosted a chainsaw safety course. The course, a program of Blackhawk Chapter of WWOA, was put on by Jim Olive, an instructor from Chainsaw Safety Specialists. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

ATF Goes on a Field Trip

We have all been putting in some long days on the tree farm this fall (including Saturday’s chainsaw safety course – more coming on that!), so today Joe took us on a “field trip.”

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Ponds revealed!

As I mentioned last week, a pond project is underway at the farm. I'm working on removing willows to make the ponds accessible. They will eventually be surveyed and excavated.

To remove the willows from the site, I've been using the Bobcat with tree shear attachment. Above is an action photo of our tree shear. The shear will cut trees up to 14 inches. It has a grapple attachment that will hold the tree as we move it to either a brush pile or the chipper. This particular model is made by the company Tree Terminator. The shear does get somewhat challenging to use in tight areas. However, it worked great for this project, as this was all out in the open.

And here is a completed photo of both ponds with all the willows removed. The next step in this project will be to have a survey completed and than dig out the ponds to the appropriate size. 
Stay tuned!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Capturing the Season

This morning’s bright sunshine pulled me outside to capture the beautiful fall morning - despite the frigid 42 degrees on the thermometer! I bundled up with a jacket, hat and mittens before jumping on the buggy and cruising around the farm to document the turning of the season. 

Maple trees.

Badger Barn

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A well-hidden pond

This photo shows the start of the project. Hidden inside that tangle of willow trees is a pond. I should mention that due to this years drought all of the ponds on Arington Tree farm are at low levels. This pond, along with a similar sized one right behind it, need to be surveyed. After the survey is complete we hope to be given a permit to have them excavated. Both of the ponds are in a wetland area where Mudd Creek used to flow. However before a permit can be issued or a survey completed the willows needed to be removed. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Moving 'Fort Buck'

This isn't the way most of us would be required to handle a hunting stand. However this isn't your average hunting stand. On Arington Tree Farm we refer to this monster as Fort Buck.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Hot Hot Heat: Drought of Summer 2012

The Drought of 2012 left its mark on Arington Tree Farm, no question about it. The heavy heat and extremely dry conditions wreaked havoc on the grass, flowers, crops and trees growing throughout the farm.

The grass and perennial flowers will bounce back but the trees aren't as forgiving. The first 10 years of a tree's life are when it is most vulnerable - too much moisture, too little moisture or heavy wildlife browse can lead to its demise. Thus, the repeated hot, dry and windy days over the course of summer 2012 definitely took a toll. Depending on their age, location and soil conditions, some trees handled the heat better than others.

Oak seedlings planted by students on Arbor Day 2012. The oak on the left fell victim to the drought conditions. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

"Growing Deer": Planting a Food Plot

The hard work of prepping the site is only now a memory. All the sore muscles from bouncing around on the tractor have returned to normal.

The photo shows a piece of equipment called a Seed-N-Pack. It is a drop seeder that works on disked seedbeds. The hopper on the top, with the logo, can be filled with seed. As you drive along seed would drop out from the hopper and be spread.

However, I don't plan on filling the hopper with seed. I want to use it for the bottom part, the cultipacker. In the picture you might be able to notice circular rollers with grooves. That's the cultipacker and it works great to even out seedbeds. Notice the differences of the soil surface from using the cultipacker in the photo.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


World, meet Princess!

She is Arington Tree Farm's mascot. She is only a few years old so she has a lot of activities she likes to participate in. Princess enjoys long walks on the beach, napping, eating free food, smelling fresh roses in the meadow, and more napping. Princess is a farm cat so she does have the freedom to explore the outdoors, which she is happy to do as long as the outdoor temperature is between 65 - 75 degrees F.

"Growing Deer": Before you plant, think about this!

As mentioned in Arik’s post last week, we recently started a food plot here on the farm. Our goal in this project is to attract deer and provide an early, middle and hopefully late season food source for them. This food plot will also become a central hunting location, as recently we moved Fort Buck to this area (more on that in the future!).

Arik covered the basics of preparing the soil for planting, but he didn’t get into the why’s and how’s this particular site was chosen.

No, it wasn’t chosen just because it’s one of the few places where trees (or some other type of crop) aren’t growing! Many things were considered before choosing that particular place, and if you are thinking about putting in your own food plot, you’ll want to consider these things too:

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

"Growing Deer": Starting a Food Plot

(We're starting a food plot on the farm! This post is the first of a series that will appear about the progress of this project. Stay tuned...) 

A food plot is an area set aside that is planted solely to act as a food source for wildlife. Food plots often consist of legumes, like clover, alfalfa and beans, and/or grasses.

In an earlier post I made reference to lazy hunters. It might be suggested by some that only a lazy hunter would hunt over a food plot. I would argue that installing a food plot properly is not an act any "lazy" hunter would dare undertake. And to find my self hunting over that same food plot seems like a just reward for a whole bunch of hard work.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Sunrise at Arington Tree Farm

With the speed of life I know it is sometimes hard to stop and take in what is. It would be easy to miss nature's beauty by allowing the common annoyances of everyday life overtake our attention. I think we all need to take some time to give our attention to the things that really deserve it, and less to those that don't. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

What is a "cord of wood"?

"The cord is a unit of measure of dry volume used to measure firewood and pulpwood. A cord is the amount of wood that, when 'ranked and well stowed' (arranged so pieces are aligned, parallel, touching and compact), occupies a volume of 128 cubic feet." (From our good friends at Wikipedia.)

In case you didn't get that the first time around, how about a visual?

This picture is the woodpile at the Husker Barn here on Arington Tree Farm. The red diagram shows the dimensions of a full cord of wood, or 128 cubic feet (click the photo to enlarge it). Let's do some math!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

In the footsteps of Aldo Leopold

“Nothing so important as an ethic is ever ‘written’… It evolves in the minds of a thinking community.” – Aldo Leopold, The Land Ethic (1949).

Last week I was challenged to delve deeper into my personal land ethic and reconsider the value of the natural world and my relationship with it.

Along with about 25 others, I participated in the AldoLeopold Foundation’s Land Ethic Leaders Program. It was a two-day program held at the Foundation, focusing on using observation, participation and reflection as methods to explore and deepen our connections to the land.

I’ll be honest – I didn’t know what I was getting myself into! Although I grew up on a farm and have worked on the tree farm and with woodland organizations for two years now, I still feel pretty “green.”

Monday, August 13, 2012

A carnivorous tree?

It does look like this poplar tree is slowly consuming an old tree stand. We will make it a point to keep this tree out of the sawmill. The lazy hunter who neglected his or her responsibility of removing their tree stand sure left a footprint on the land for all to see.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Benefits of Mulch

A protective covering, usually of organic matter such as leaves, straw, or peat, placed around plants to prevent the evaporation of moisture, the freezing of roots, and the growth of weeds.

Putting mulch underneath your trees can be very benifitial, however, if done improperly it can also harm your trees. By following a few simple steps, you can mulch your way to a happy healthy tree.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A sunrise with dew!

As most of us will remember for years to follow, the summer of 2012 was hot and dry. Most mornings we have had little to no dew or fog. Today proved to be an exception and the cobweb found on a dead buckthorn shrub is the proof.

"A Taste of Wisconsin" for American Forest Foundation

Earlier this month, Arington Tree Farm hosted the American Forest Foundation Board of Trustees. They met at the farm on July 9 for their Board meeting and afterwards, we gave them a “Taste of Wisconsin.” We had a delicious spread of Wisconsin cheese and beer waiting for them when they returned from a farm tour, while Chef (and Joe’s son-in-law) Joel Chesebro cooked up a delicious feast of chicken, pulled pork, salads and cherry pie – yum!

Fresh Wisconsin cheese. 

AFF Board members taking in the view of Arksarben Pond. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

A sad loss

Technically this black oak isn't a loss. However, the limb you see in the picture is a third of the tree's total foliage. That is a pretty big stress on this tree. The wound on the trunk where the branch broke off is also very large and a prime area for further decay to occur. So while the mess is all cleaned up for now, come winter the rest of the tree will come down.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Fawn on the Farm

A small population of white-tailed deer call Arington Tree Farm home. This little guy, only 1-2 months old, has been spotted around the farm drinking from the ponds and trying to keep cool in the shade!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Willows - Before & After

Did you know that willow trees are actually an invasive species? Here at Arington Tree Farm, they grow in abundance on the flatland near Mud Creek.

This past week, Arik and I have been using hand saws to trim them back from a trail they were threatening to take over. Cutting back the willows also means the young oaks will have more sunlight and nutrients to keep growing.

Check out our progress!


Learn more about willows here.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Why Trees Matter

I came across this editorial from the New York Times Opinion Pages yesterday. It was written earlier this year, seemingly in conjunction with Arbor Day as its message is a call to action on protecting and promoting trees.

Sure, we all know that trees are great for shade, help clean the air and water, and are the backbone for Wisconsin industry. But too often, it is overlooked how closely intermingled trees are to the success of all living species, all across the globe.

Jim Robbins does a great job of reminding us that the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago; the second best time is today.

Read full article here.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Busy beaver indeed!

Mud Creek meanders lazily through Arington Tree Farm. The northern third of the property is accessible by crossing a ford built on Mud Creek. About two weeks ago we noticed the water levels raising at the ford. We sent Jeremy on a scouting mission dressed in hip waders. Two hundred yards downstream of the ford he found the dam. The water level in the picture is fifteen inches higher upstream of the dam. Industrious creatures, those beavers.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Timber stand improvement

This photo shows a trail through a 20 acre wood lot. This summer our goal is to do timber stand improvement (TSI).

Monday, June 4, 2012


Welcome to Under the Oak Tree -- the Arington Tree Farm blog.

The blog gets its name from everyone's "favorite" tree - a beautiful white oak that sits near Husker Barn. Is it politically incorrect to pick a favorite when you're on a tree farm? We hope not! This oak is over 100 years old and it's sturdy trunk and wide canopy make it the "picture-perfect" tree. We even based our ATF logo on it!

The Great White Oak - our "favorite" tree!

We'll use this space to share what's happening here on the farm. There's a lot of work going on every day, between the stands that need pruning, invasive species that need spraying and firewood that needs cutting. There's also a lot of wildlife to be checked upon and flowers to be tended to. That said, we still find some time to have fun, like today's field trip to the ice cream shop in town.

Ice cream break - yes please.

We hope you enjoy Under the Oak Tree and check back often to see what we're up to!